Not As They Seem
Earlier this week, I attended a lovely panel discussion at my daughter’s school. We sat at tables with linen cloths while tiny plates of interesting food were served. The topic was on healthy eating, sustainability, and mindfulness. All three panelists were parents at the British School of Boston, including a chef, a mindfulness coach/executive, and a model. The model, however, was not just any model. She was Gisele Bundchen, the world famous super model, married to Tom Brady. She was on stage maybe fifteen feet in front of me talking excitedly to this relatively small gathering of sixty parents and teachers, and she was talking in a warm, animated way that I believe never would have happened if People Magazine had been there, vying for another alluring shot of her. Instead, we were instructed not to take pictures or videos. As a result, she spoke to the group as though she were just like any mom, even though she has a staff, including a well-known chef who prepares all of their organic, healthy meals. She spoke about teaching her children the importance of giving; both of her children asked their friends to give to charity this year in lieu of presents, just as my kids did. Given that they could afford to buy everything in a toy store for their kids, this was particularly touching. She talked about watching the sunrise with her 7 year-old many mornings, and teaching her kids to be grateful. She was warm and funny and real, not to mention beautiful inside and out. And she was nothing like the media has portrayed her– as aloof, self-focused, superficial. It was such a great affirmation that so much of what drives the fame machine is not the celebrity, but the publicists and the trashy magazines.
Today as I was shopping for Christmas gifts at Target, I realized the whole Bruins hockey team was in the toy section with me buying toys for underprivileged kids. At first I just thought it was a few guys dressed up in Bruins jerseys, but once I saw about 20 of them and realized that they looked big and muscular, I figured they were the real team. I am not someone who plays hockey and I have only been to one pro hockey game in my life– the New York Rangers on a double date, which was not the most romantic setting because of all the drunken guys surrounding us shouting. Even though two of my nephews play hockey, as well as their parents, I always figured that hockey players were rough and tough and not that smart. But as I was moving through the toy section, I overheard two of the Bruins players discussing what to get for two little girls they were trying to buy for. One was asking the other, “Do you know where the princess shoes and the pink nail polish is?” It was the sweetest thing seeing these big athletic men who were completely absorbed in finding something special for a few little girls in need. As I made my way to the games section, a player named Domenic Moore was selecting toys while cameras were filming him. The helpers from Target were trying to suggest games and he kept asking, “But are they educational? I want to make sure they are learning something.” So I interjected, “I would go with Scattergories, since it’s a game that makes you think. My teen and preteen love it.” He wanted to know how old my kids were and how smart. I said, “Smart!” He smiled a big smile. I added, “So you play hockey?” He smiled and said yes, even though it was probably obvious to everyone else in the store. “And you’re on the Bruins.” “Yes,” he answered smiling again. “Sorry I’m not that into hockey. I’m more into the arts.” “That’s ok, he said.” And that was it. Because of one pro hockey team buying toys for needy kids, all of whom were polite and dedicated to the task of helping kids, I became a hockey fan too, and have decided that the players are lovely and smart. (Dominic actually went to Harvard.)
I’ve now encountered two famous people in one week. My daughter couldn’t get enough hearing about Gisele, and my son was so excited to hear about the Bruins, even though he is not a hockey player, since sports are still just something he knows and cares about. I learned that things are not as they seem, that famous people can be warm and lovely and accessible, but that the fame machine has changed our perception of them so often. I also learned that it’s disarming to famous people not to be fawned over. I’ll never forget when my grandfather met my sister’s college roommate, Jodie Foster, at Yale graduation. He had no idea that she was a famous actress at the time, so he said, “And who might you be?” when she hadn’t introduced herself. She was very pleased to say, “I’m Jodie. Jodie Foster. I’m an actress.” I’m guessing for Gisele, it was a relief to be surrounded by a mostly international crowd, many of whom don’t follow her husband’s football career and don’t care much about modeling. She could just be a mom and a health nut and talk to us as though she was sharing with a girlfriend. Likewise, for Dominic, I’m sure he appreciated that I was just helping him find a board game, and that I was not that into hockey. It’s always charming to be fearless and just be yourself.
To find your world stage, remember that the goal isn’t fame, because the fame machine of publicists and crazy fans and toxic press and paparazzi, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The goal is to use your gifts to make the world a better place, whether it’s acting, playing hockey, modeling and now advocating for the environment and children, or anything else. Things are not always as they seem, and it’s a gift when you get to peer behind the curtain to see the real thing.